She swirled the cup, to read his tea,
He’d left to pay a visit,
This woman that he’d lunched with
At a tea-shop in the City.
He’d met her in a shop and chatted,
Between the shelves of musty books,
Tomes, both old and new,
Though mostly old,
At this shop of varied miscellany.
He’d sought a gem, and found a jewel,
At least that’s what he thought.
He’d felt a shiver, he thought a spark,
But not the spark, he thought,
The sparkles in her eyes,
The soft long flow of hair,
Or the smile that warmed
The torpid chill of heart,
Long since shrouded by the urban dark,
An auric glow to fill his heart,
And maybe pockets too.
By Gift this spark was lit,
And not by looks, or specious things,
For her soul too had stirred, at first,
And sifted forth a subtle phasing shimmer,
To touch the questing probe of his.
She peered into the cup and frowned,
And shook the leaves again,
A second time.
She signalled no with eyes and manner
To maid who moved to clear
The china pot and plates,
Then shook the cup again
The third and final time,
To see portents placed,
Aligned, within the cup.
The leaves they would not lie,
They would not cheat,
They would not use,
They told it true,
Laid out bare,
Against the bright white china backdrop,
Of this subtle china cup.
She saw his past,
And then the future that might be,
And alas, she saw, it was not meant to be,
That she drank from this man’s tainted cup,
But must needs seek another.
She rose before he would return.
She left a crisp new £5 note,
She left the man,
She left the bitter taste
Of what she’d missed
And put it all, like those before, behind her.

© Greg Richards


The art of augury

The future of things past

Yet soon to come.

For the future, 

Bright yearned for beacon,

Is built upon the past,

Not bound by the present.

The herald swims through the present

Not permitting it to cleave to the now

And forestall the birthing branches,

Myriad prescient paths permitting,

For those that have the courage

Determining strength

Or portent, luck or chance,

However you wish to dress it,

To swim the river that flows,

For those prepared to enter its waters

To where they were, perhaps,

Always meant to be.




Through the window
Like a stone in water,
Solid, resounding, its presence
Breached the surface calm
Of the thick and turgid,
Grief and pollen laden,
Heavy, warm afternoon air,
And landed with a crash
On open window sill.

The Old Man started, turned and
Drew breath sharply at sight of Owl,
Mad raging accusatory eyes
Fixed at first on him.
And then eyes widened,
At sight of Apple Blossom,
Turned to window then
To see the parting path
Through Alder and Holly,
That had guided the Owl through.

Outside the wind, it stirred and rose
And distant thunder grew.
A thunder also in his heart,
At sight of Owl,
Events of long ago,
That entered now the present,
Vision clouded thus
To what the future
Now might hold.

Owl, impervious as ever,
Leapt nimbly
For all its bulk and girth,
Half the size of man,
And on a par with sleeping boy,
It Glided to the bed
And landed gently
Upon his troubled rising chest.

The Old Man started once again,
And made as if to reach,
One hand holding Alder,
The other an ancient blade,
And in his chest
A heart that pumped,
And with it blood that
Sang a song of distant
Never-ending sorrow.

Owl’s head turned,
Around and round again,
Widdershins the way,
Then turned to face the Man.
It watched not for the blade or Wand
But waited as the Man
Reached out and cut a shank
Of Cold dead lamb
And flung it from him to the fire.
The musty pungent smell
Of roasting meat
Slowly filled the room.

Owl settled on its makeshift perch
And turned to face the boy,
Leaning in and peering close,
Eyes as large as plates,
Blood red round,
And yet still filled
With ancient rage,
It could not, would not
Leave behind, but clutched,
Like prey, in the talons of its heart.

Its rage was fresh as
When they last had met
The Old man felt it still,
And yet if chance permitted
No different would he do,
Than had been done
Those many years ago.
But Owl’s rage focused not
On boy before him,
Or the Man beside him,
But for the darkness of another,
Who shrouded, hidden, slept elsewhere,
Protected from its wrath,
As they were too from his.

Owl’s beak opened, just so slightly.
Its tongue, as red as blood,
Darted out to taste the air.
Then with beak as sharp as any blade,
Before the Man could intervene,
It struck, not hard or deep
But lightly drawing blood,
From the sleeping boy before him.
For blood to bind was needed,
To bring the life and soul
From where another drew them,
Then keep the soul within.
For blood, it was that fired
All magic old as this.
And blood it was that granted power
For those that would command it.

The room began to dim,
And light without withdrew,
As shadows seeped within.
Silence slowly folded all,
And ushered out the sound of summer,
Song of bird and cricket
Whispering wind and
Sun kist leaf and bough.
And in the muffled dark
The Old Man held his breath,
Watched and waited,
As young boy’s lids began to twitch,
His limbs began to stir,
And then, at last, his eyes,
They opened up to see.

Yes, eyes they opened up to see,
And slowly gazed in awe and fear
At what it was they saw,
A Man who’d aged so whilst he slept,
And fearsome beast unknown atop him,
He’d rather not have seen.
The Owl leapt up and off,
And settled back on sill.

The scent of burning meat
Now mingled thick with
Meadowsweet and broom,
And Apple scent,
From the blossom on the bed,
Beside the wakened boy.
The Old Man slowly straightened,
For now, he knew
What must be done,
And had the hope
And confidence to do it.

The Owl would maybe help,
Despite the burning rage within.
It sat on window sill now still,
Feathers fluffed, wings tucked tight,
Eyes tight shut, now asleep.
It dreamed, its dream
Of blood and bone,
Its prey before it rent
Yet living still
No rodent this,
But hand outstretched,
Before the several headed Owl,
Not one, nor two but three,
Which all desired to feast
And after all the years since past
Perhaps, to eat its fill,
And thereby rest at last,
In raiment fine
Bedecked with flowers,
Soft lips, perchance, to taste instead of flesh,
And pure clear heart to find.

© Greg Richards